Comedy, 102 Minutes, 2012
Ben Stiller [IMDB] has been more “miss” than “hit” lately. Well – to be fair – more “average” than “amazing”. His last few movies, including this one to some extent, have been a little uneven, silly and too dependent on deus ex machina. This one is saved in the end by some slick special effects and some fun (if completely immature) gags, but it is a bumpy ride.
Stiller plays Evan, a highly motivated Costco manager who involves himself a little too much with his community and a little too little with his marriage. When his night watchman is murdered under bizarre circumstances, Evan leaps into action by organizing a truly terrible neighborhood watch group. After some meandering the group discovers that horrifying aliens are preparing a global invasion that can only be thwarted… yada yada yada.
One of the more obvious problems is that these new teammates never really gel. We go through the motions: initial confusion, tentative acceptance and then a uniting minor victory, but they all seemed forced. It may because they never actually – ever – act like a neighborhood watch. Instead they undertake half-assed stake-outs and accidentally trip over important things while moving aimlessly from place to place.
More subtly the script just doesn’t respect the characters very much. Evan, for example, is introduced as a strictly by-the-book, anal-retentive goody-two-shoes. Then, in service of a weak joke, we see him get a ticket for putting up fliers without a permit. This character – as introduced – would not only have a permit, he would be able to quote the regulations to the police from memory (which might have actually improved the gag). Similar minor, but collectively annoying, events happen throughout.
Our heroes consistently make borderline (or overtly) retarded decisions (some of which are downright disturbing once all the facts come to light). Have you found a neighbor half-eaten? No need to call the police, somebody will probably be along soon, just ignore it. Discover undeniable proof of extra-terrestrial life in the form of an actual alien corpse? Obviously it’s time to play “Weekend at Bernie’s”! Obtained alien technology of unspeakable destructive power? Play with it like children, then keep it in your rec room! This is offset by other instances of insanely insightful declarations based on the loosest possible evidence.
So – like most mass-market comedies – check your brain at the door. Once you do that, there’s actually quite bit of fun here and without your brain you can better enjoy the many mindless dick jokes! Maybe it was the alien angle (easy points with this household), but we actually ended up having a lot of fun despite all of the stupid. The movie is broken, but it got around really well on crutches (“crutches” in this case being the aforementioned many mindless dick jokes).